Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Righteousness


Today we look at the fourth beatitude. One of the wonders I have enjoyed about the word of God is the way that a single verse or phrase can teach us so much. We have galloped our way through the book of Genesis, often covering a chapter at a time. The Word of God says "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17). So many truths are encapsulated in the gospels that we can take a much more gentle pace, and pause and meditate and be still, and know, that He is God. We can make analogy of a forest. At times we step back at look at the whole forest. At times we advance and study a single tree. And at time an even closer look, the study of one leaf. Today that leaf is the sixth beatitude:

Again it appears at first sight to be a paradox. By earthly standards it is those who full, those who have all their wants provided who are happy, lucky, blessed, to be envied. Surely the hungry and thirsty are to be pitied, cursed rather than blessed? But Jesus identifies those that recognise their lack of righteousness as blessed. Those that yearn for righteousness are blessed. Those whose desire for righteousness stretches so deep inside them that they are driven to passionately seek this need, such people, will be blessed, says Jesus, for this need will be met. That is a promise. That is a blessed assurance.

What is righteousness that we should seek it so ardently. The Greek word used in the text is "dikaiosune" (dik-ay-yos-oo-nay) Strong's Concordance #1343, from 1342, dikaios, innocent, holy. "dikaiosune", equity in character, Christian justification, righteousness. The corresponding Hebrew word is Strong's Concordance #6664, tsedeq, the right, natural moral or legal, perhaps linked to an Arab root word that conveys the concept of "straightness, an action that conforms to a norm"..

"Justification" is a cousin, so to speak, of "righteousness". Justify is a legal term meaning "acquit", "declare righteous", the opposite of "condemn". Those who seek righteousness want to have themselves justified. Justification is God's act of wiping the slate clean, washing us snow white with the saving blood of Jesus.

Righteousness has given a bad name by the hypocrites and Pharisees who developed self righteousness to a fine art. Self righteousness has to do with self aggrandization and a stuffy "holier than thou" attitude. The Biblical Old Testament righteousness however bears the concept of a correct relationship with God, congruent with the will of God as expressed by Israel's covenant with God. The New Testament combines this concept with the gift of eternal life that comes with salvation from the risen Christ, allowing each one of us to be right with God.

Righteousness is not a very popular word nowadays. It seems to have gone out of the window together with words like thee and thou and verily and sin. Old cobweb covered fuddy duddy ideas. But are they? The Pharisees claimed to be righteous people. But Jesus says, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). Looking for fancy restaurants to dine? Great wines to drink? XO? brandy? Fine brand names clothes? What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?

A peek at Psalms and Proverbs will show you many references to the righteous and righteousness: e.g. Ps 1:6, Ps 5:12, Ps 17:15, Ps 119:142, Prov 10:3, Prov 10:21, Prov 11:18, Prov 16:31. A treasury of righteousness is found in Romans 1:17, 3:22, 3:25, 4:3, 4:9, 4:22, 5:18, 5:21, 6:13, 6:18, 9:30, 10:3, 10:4, 10:6, 14:17.

Does this deepen your understanding of righteousness. Do you long to be right with God? Does the longing dip deep into your innermost being, with every fibre, every cell in your body noting the lack, like a hunger of 40 days without food, you feel faint for the want of sustenance, the lack of water and the hot desert sun causing you to feel parched, dried out, thirsty with a deep thirst that calls not for just a drop or two but for an everlasting stream of cool water to quench the thirst: Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days and night fasting. He knew what it meant to hunger and thirst. Jesus asks you to deeply desire righteousness in the same way that a fasted person longs for food and water... then you will be blessed. You will be filled with righteousness. You will be justified, This is the promise of our Risen Lord. Even to you today, Jesus says "Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled".

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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